Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams leaves Richmond for family reasons

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On Monday evening, Richmond announced that Derrick Williams has left the program.

“We thank Derrick for his contributions to the program and wish him luck in his future endeavors,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said in a press release on Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon, John O’Connor the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Williams’ departure was a result of family issues.

“Yes I have enjoyed my time as a Spider and love every fan and every minute,” Williams said in an email to the Times-Dispatch on Tuesday. “But unfortunately family issues are too overwhelming for me.”

Williams was a three-year starter for the Spiders, averaging 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore and 11.4 points and 5.4 boards per game as a junior. His numbers, and minutes, dipped in 2013-2014 to 5.8 points, grabbing 3.7 rebounds per night for Richmond. The 6-foot-6 Williams saw 21 minutes a game.

The Spiders are 14-8 (4-3 Atlantic 10), putting them fifth in the conference. Richmond holds a win over then-No. 13 UMass, but dropped back-to-back games to Saint Louis and VCU.

Richmond is currently listed as one of the ‘Next five teams out’ in the latest edition of College Basketball Talk’s Bracketology.

Josh Pastner will be more than just a recruiter. Give him time.

University of Memphis head coach Pastner reacts to a call against Saint Louis University during their men's NCAA college basketball game in Columbus
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It’s official: Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is an elite recruiter.

Not that there was much doubt heading into this summer. His first recruiting class (the Class of 2010) with the Tigers included three five-star recruits and two four-star recruits. He landed three kids from Memphis (Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Tarik Black), a top ten player from Baltimore (Will Barton) and a McDonald’s all-american from Georgia (Jelan Kendrick). He brought in another five-star Memphis native (Adonis Thomas) in 2011, and followed that up by landing Shaquille Goodwin, Damien Wilson and Geron Johnson this year while managing to convince both Jackson (transfer) and Thomas (NBA Draft) to stay at Memphis.

His 2013 recruiting class could end up being the most impressive of his tenure. As of now, he has four top 100 recruits in line to enroll at Memphis next fall — Nick King, Markel Crawford, RaShawn Powell and Kuran Iverson, a skilled, 6-foot-9 small forward from Connecticut that ranks in the top 30 nationally and committed on Tuesday.

King and Crawford are from Memphis, Powell is from Florida and Iverson is from up in Big East country, which means that not only is Pastner able to tap into the faucet of talent in his own backyard, he’s now proving he can go and get players on a national scale.

So where are the wins?

That 75-29 overall record is nice until you consider that it has come during a stretch where Memphis should be far and away the best basketball program in Conference USA. John Calipari had more than half that many in the 2008 season that was wiped off the books. He also went his final three years with the Tigers without losing a conference game. Pastner is 36-12 in his first three years with one league title and a pair of tournament titles.

Again, that’s good, but given the talent he has at his disposal and the talent level of Conference USA, I think it’s fair to say those results are somewhere in the ‘mediocre to solid’ range.

The number that is more frustrating to Memphis fans is zero. As in, the number of NCAA tournament wins Pastner has in his first two seasons with the Tigers. There are plenty of programs and coaches that would be ecstatic with two straight NCAA tournament appearances. No one in Memphis things they fall under that umbrella.

Criticism of Pastner’s coaching ability is fair. But there are a couple things that need to be kept in mind before doing so:

He’s young: Pastner took over this program as a 32 year old first-time head coach. The same way that a hot-shot, rookie point guard needs time to learn how to run an NBA team, Pastner needs time to develop his ability to coach a team. In-game adjustments, perfecting a system, game-planning, motivational pregame speeches, everything. Pastner’s been training himself to be a head coach since he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 national title team, but “training” and “doing” are two different things. This may be the last year where it’s ok to say that he deserves the benefit of the doubt, but … Pastner still deserves the benefit of the doubt.

He didn’t start with much: The Tigers were an NIT team in Pastner’s first season, but where would they have been without Eliot Williams? If you’ve forgotten, Williams transferred out of Duke and was granted immediate eligibility at Memphis due to a health issue of a family member. He was a first round pick that averaged 17.9 points and 3.8 assists. Without him, do the Tigers make the postseason? With Wesley Witherspoon, Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp? I’m not so sure.

He’s getting better: In 2010-2011, Pastner had a team full of 18 and 19 year-olds playing for their hometown team in city that idolizes high school and college hoopers. Getting that group to come together and make a run through the league tournament and earn an at-large bid — they finished fourth in regular season play — was impressive. What was more impressive was what he did with last season’s Memphis team. After 11 games, the Tigers were 6-5 and coming off of a hideous performance against Georgetown in Washington DC. I wrote this about them at that point. There were Memphis fans calling for Pastner’s job. And all they did the rest of the year was win 20 of their last 23 games and head into the NCAA tournament as a trendy sleeper pick to make a run.

Those tournament losses were bad breaks: Down by two with five seconds left in the game, Wesley Witherspoon had his shot blocked by Derrick Williams on a play that very easily could have been called a foul. That’s how close the Tigers were to going to overtime. In the 2012 tournament, Memphis caught a terrible break by drawing an eight seed and getting matched up with a very good St. Louis team that matched up with the Tigers perfectly. Bad luck is not an excuse, but eventually Memphis will catch a break.

Memphis has a veteran group this season with a head coach that is coming into his own. So be patient, Memphis fans. You’re in good hands as your team makes the transition to the Big East. And given the way that last season ended, you may not even need to wait until you make that jump for your NCAA tournament run.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Under Armour Elite 24 features some must-see stars

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The newly re-branded Elite 24 all-star game tips at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPNU) and is sponsored by Under Armour, having taken the game’s reins from Boost Mobile. The contest is unique in that August is usually a quiet month for high school stars, having been put through a grueling July evaluation period. The first year of Under Armour at the helm of the game is notable for a great crop of incoming senior and underclass stars, as well as NBA player coaching staffs.

The game has been a high-flying, dunk-filled affair in the past, and this year’s edition is expected to be no different, despite the late scratch from the game of Baltimore star Aquille Carr, due to his recent arrest. As always, with a game featuring young players on national television, defense will be at a minimum. This event is also a measuring stick for selection to the McDonald’s All-American game, as it should be accessible for all voters to view.

The Raymond Lewis team, coached by young NBA stars Brandon Jennings and Derrick Williams, has a devastating quartet from Texas as its headline players. With three of the top five seniors in guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and power forward Julius Randle, as well as elite junior point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Jennings has some terrific Lone Star State talent at his disposal. Keep an eye on glue guy Rondae Jefferson, and another high-flying Texas forward Justise Winslow. Also, expect hometown SoCal talents guard Isaac Hamilton and center Marcus Lee to put on a show for local fans.

Kemba Walker and DeAndre Jordan’s Marques Johnson squad took a hit in losing Carr, and doesn’t have the top to bottom star power that Jennings’ team has. Still, the land’s best high school basketball player, Andrew Wiggins, will have the opportunity to put on a show in front of a nationwide audience, and top 5 senior talent Aaron Gordon will have his chance to prove that he has completed his transition to small forward, and shaken off the effects of a spring injury. Keep an eye on mismatch forward Kuran Iverson, who was solid during the summer, and junior Chris Paul-clone Tyus Jones could demonstrate he is the best pure point guard nationally.

The festivities start on Thursday with what should be an at least entertaining dunk contest, with the participants still to be announced. ESPN’s selection team put together two very talented an intriguing rosters, who should have the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable talents against some big names.

Fans of Kansas (Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene), Syracuse (Tyler Ennis), Washington (Nigel Williams-Goss) and North Carolina (Nate Britt) can get a glimpse into their futures, as they have players that have made non-binding verbal commitments participating in the game. Also, expect UCLA and possibly other programs to benefit from the game’s location with unofficial visits by some of the game’s participants.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton signs endorsement deal with Under Armour

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Former Memphis Tiger Will Barton has signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour, he announced via his Twitter page Wednesday.

Barton, who averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this past season for the Tigers on his way to winning Conference USA Player of the Year, was drafted 40th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in this year’s NBA draft.

Under Armour is a Baltimore-based company that has strong ties to the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, meaning Barton’s signing digs those roots in further.

Barton is a native of Baltimore who starred for Lake Clifton (Md.) before moving to Brewster Academy (N.H.) for his senior season.

Barton is added to an Under Armour lineup that is headlined by Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, along with Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams.

Greivis Vasquez, a former guard at Maryland, is also under the UA umbrella, as is his alma mater. Under Armour has made in-roads on the grassroots basketball scene, as well, with their logo adorning the jerseys of prominent AAU teams that include DC Assault, UA Baltimore’s Finest, and Sports U (N.J.).

Outside of the basketball court, the company has signed a deal with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who also hails from Baltimore.

As for Barton, he signed a three-year deal with the Blazers on July 18 and played well for the team during Summer League competition.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Marquette fans looking forward to two Taylors

Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams reacts in the second half against the Florida Gators during the NCAA men's West Regional basketball tournament in Phoenix
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Marquette fans are rightfully looking forward to the Trent Lockett era in Milwaukee. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is moving eastward to be near his ailing mother, who lives in Minnesota, and should bring an experienced scoring threat to a team learning to live without Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder.

The Golden Eagles are pretty loaded in the backcourt for 2012-13, with a rotation that looks something like this: Lockett, Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, Todd Mayo and Derrick Williams. The big man rotation may be a bit thin — literally and figuratively — without the broad-shouldered Crowder patrolling the paint. Regardless, according to a roundtable hosted by the Marquette blog Paint Touches, some who write about the team  are really looking forward to 6’4″ Paris Junior College transfer T.J. Taylor joining the guard platoon.


Andrei Greska, Paint Touches: I was going to say Steve Taylor, but I’ll play devil’s advocate for this one. I’ll go with the other Taylor, T.J. Steve will turn out to be the best player from this class, but a true freshman will have a much tougher time adjusting to the rigors and physicality of low post, Big East basketball. T.J. has more experience and has the ability to step in right away if his shot is dropping. He will get a shot to fill in for Cadougan in limited slots, giving him ample opportunity for playing time.

Greska’s assertion that he was playing devil’s advocate makes sense in light of the overwhelming excitement directed toward another Taylor – 6’7″ true freshman Steve.

Mark Strotman, Paint Touches: All aboard the Steve Taylor train. I have been as vocal as anyone about how good I believe Taylor can be ever since a conversation with Tony Benford back in February. Jae Crowder walked by on his way to the locker room, and Benford turned, saw Crowder and said, “He’s a lot like that guy.” Taylor already has the experience on playing what was essentially a national stage at Simeon, and his skill set is similar to Crowder, plus two inches. His importance to the second unit as the top rebounder and inside-out threat will be important to a team looking for scorers. He’s the real deal.

To say “he’s like that guy” while actually looking at a bulldog like Crowder is tough stuff. If Steve Taylor can back up that comparison, the Golden Eagles will again be fun to watch. If both Taylors live up to the hype, even better.

Parrom’s injury might just sink the rest of Arizona’s season

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Arizona’s luck had to turn at some point. But I didn’t realize it would encompass most of the season.

The Wildcats were among the game’s “luckiest” teams when it made its run to the Elite Eight last season (having Derrick Williams and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc also didn’t hurt). This season, only 20 teams have had it worse.

If that’s too wonky, try this: One of the Wildcats’ touted prospects never played this season and one of their best players is done for the year. Without Kevin Parrom – who already had a fairly trying season – Sean Miller’s team might just be in deep trouble.

The 6-6 junior was a versatile player on the wing, a capable shooter and could help Arizona’s undersized frontcourt on defense. He’d been logging more minutes the last few games, but a broken foot suffered during Saturday’s loss to Washington ended all that.

From the Arizona Daily Star:

“We missed him, no question about it,” Miller said. “It’s a shame because Kevin right now is (effectively) a starter. He is. He would have probably been a starter from the first day of the season until now, but on the Colorado-Utah swing was probably the first time we saw him running and playing and confident. He almost had his full strength back. He played an excellent half against Washington today.

“Not having him available for the second half was kind of the same look we’ve had prior to him coming back and our margin for error is razor-thin without him, that’s for sure.”

Arizona (14-8, 5-4 in the Pac-12) plays five of its final nine regular-season games on the road, including a trip to the Bay Area. Until Parrom was injured, there was a solid chance the Wildcats could’ve won seven of those nine games – they haven’t played like a team one game above .500 – but this hurts that significantly.

I’d been convinced that Arizona was a team that would play its way into Top 25 status as the season progressed. Now it appears as though it won’t even play its way into the NCAA tournament.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.